by Maddie Clark

Starting in Montgomeryville, not only does the Wissahickon Creek provide the habitat for over 130 species of birds, 15 species of mammals and 574 species of native plants, it provides drinking water for an upwards of 350,000 Philadelphia residents, according to the Lower Gwynedd Township.

So, besides its beauty and recreational popularity, the Wissahickon Creek is a vital part of the 64-mile Wissahickon Watershed. That is why on Wednesday, Oct. 24, Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) as well as likeminded partners will be sharing the progress of the Wissahickon Valley Cleanup Partnership at their event, Communities Connecting for a Clean Wissahickon.

Following up on two previous town hall meetings in 2012 and 2015, a panel of regional and local stakeholders will be discussing their plans for a “holistic approach to improving water quality in the Wissahickon Watershed,” according to a statement put out by Lower Gwynedd Township.

Wissahickon Creek is no stranger to health-related challenges in both the upper and lower portions of the watershed. While the creek’s well-being isn’t in immediate danger, “excess development, storm water runoff, pollution (including trash), [the] changing climate, [and] flooding damage” are threats to the habitat, according to Lower Gwynedd’s statement.

Communities Connecting for a Clean Wissahickon, however, are hoping to raise awareness and incite action “by bringing municipalities and residents together to take a sobering look at the situation, better understand it, and learn what they can do to help,” the statement read.

John Tierney, a resident of the Upper Gwynedd Township, said that he was inspired by one of the partnership’s earlier meetings that he attended.

“In our society we have an expectation that drinking water will be clean and available, but many—including me—are not aware that individual actions impact water quality,” said Tierney.

Ending at its connection with the Schuylkill River, the Wissahickon Creek is the glue that holds the Watershed’s 16 municipalities together. If the creek is to remain in existence for future generations, “it’s incumbent upon those who love this special place to take care of it,” read the township statement.

“When you consider that about 15 percent of the drinking water in Philadelphia comes from the Watershed, I felt a responsibility to reconsider my actions to ensure the long-term availability of safe drinking water. I did it for my kids who live in the city and the general good of society,” said Tierney.

Because today’s society is preoccupied with the daily hustle and bustle of everyday life, an issue such as water cleanliness often takes the back burner, despite its importance.

Unfortunately, a matter such as this can only be pushed aside for so long. Eventually, the community will have wished that they would’ve done something when they had the chance.

Communities Connecting for a Clean Wissahickon will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Campus of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The panel will be moderated by FOW’s Executive Director, Maura McCarthy, and WVWA’s Executive Director, Gail Farmer, along with a team of local experts.